CrunchFail: Doug and Greg crash and burn at Rock Band challenge

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CES was alive that day, my friends. The show-goers were itching for something new, something more, something raw. Enough gadgets, enough booths, enough walking. What we all needed was some good, old-fashioned rock and/or roll.

The cards were stacked against us from the start — that’s how we like it, though. Lead guitarist Peter Ha was kept from competition by “a yucky tummy,” leaving Greg on drums and Doug on vocals. SanDisk had made various outrageous feather boas, leather vests, wigs, and cowboy hats available to the eight competing bands, but team CrunchGear opted for a stripped down, two-person set. We didn’t need costumes. We’d say it all with our steely-blue eyes, our gyrating hips, and one or more of Greg’s flailing arms.

“Up next, you know ‘em, you love ‘em, CrunchGeeeeeearrrr,” said the announcer. “Whoa, there are only two of you! What are you guys gonna play?” I grabbed the mic and held it up to my mouth for a split-second, surveying the crowd. What could these two rag-tag, plainclothes bloggers be able to bring to such a fierce competition? Whatever it was, it’d have to be big…

The song started. A few in the crowd began to bob their heads in anticipation while wondering how one individual would be able to sustain lightning-quick lyrics that’d always been shared amongst three of the most influential hip-hop pioneers in the music world.

I took a big breath. Greg had his sticks at the ready, his gangly arms and legs about to unleash a hypnotic “stomp… pop… a… stomp, stomp, pop… stomp… pop… a… stomp, stomp, pop…” At the same time, the mannerisms I’d been portraying as those of a quiet, unassuming, Rock Band novice suddenly sprang to life.

“A just plug me in just like I was Eddie Harris! You’re eatin’ crazy cheese like you would think I’m from Paris! You know I get fly (what?!), you think I get high (what?!), you know that I’m gone and I’m a tell you all whyyyy!!!”

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The mic may have very well been inside my mouth. By the third verse, I was beginning to feel faint. There’s a reason there are three Beastie Boys – that’s no happy accident. But fainting wasn’t an option. I looked over at Greg. It seemed like his arms and legs had doubled in length, whipping the drums as though his extremities were made entirely of Fruit by the Foot.

“I’m the illest gadget blogger from here to Gar-deee-knyaaah!” We were almost done. Half the crowd had bolted, no doubt scared by the spectacle of a giant Shrek-like Scandinavian and a quadruple-jointed drummer tearing the stage apart with beat-stomping and word-tumbling.

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We’d made it to the second round. It was clear that the crowd wasn’t quite sold on our legitimacy as semi-professional musicians. We needed something with some vocals, something to show off our range. They’d expect another hip hop explosion, but we had other plans.

Back on the stage again, I’d turned my back to the crowd. “Is he not ready?” they all wondered. “What’s he doing?” The song started. This time Greg took the lead with a heart pounding four-four beat laid over a pulsating bass line emanating from a series of zeros and ones trapped inside a gaming console.

My back still to the crowd, I’d begun thrusting my fist in the air alongside Greg’s kick and snare.

Pow… pow… pow… pow… pow… pow… pow… pow…

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I whipped around and grabbed the mic.

“Hey little sister, what have you done?”

Pow… pow… pow… pow…

“Hey little sister, who’s the only one?”

Pow… pow… pow… pow…

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“Hey little sister, who’s your superman? Hey little sister, who’s the one you want? Hey little sister, SHOTGUN!”

I’d thrown my fist back into the air, making eye contact with a middle-aged Asian woman in the third row. Her previously-sensible red sweater was now causing her to sweat profusely… or was it me? “It’s a… nice day for a… whoouuuiiite weddaaaaahng!” I outstretched my hand towards her, watching her explode into a pool of exhausted rock fanaticism as I curled my lip and raised my right eyebrow. “It’s a… nice day to… staaaaaaaaaart aaagaaaaaaaiiiiiin!”

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When the smoke had cleared, Peter, Devin, and Matt where too awestruck to cheer. Peter’s mouth gaped open as if he’d actually thrown up, which he’d been threatening to do all day. Devin had tears in his eyes. Matt had taken off his hat and was holding it solemnly over his heart.

The announcer was back on stage, goading the crowd into cheering for their favorite band. It was us against a five-person mish-mash of PC Magazine and various other publications. Our tiny-but-growing fan base was no match for their army of strong-voiced, loudly-clapping supporters.

Alas, CrunchGear had been knocked out of the competition. Our would-be third and final song was the ultimate secret weapon, and it’s probably best for all involved that we didn’t perform it. Perhaps we’ll perform it next year or perhaps it’ll never grace the ears of wheelie briefcase-toting conventioneers. Whatever the case, this year’s competition is over. We may have lost on stage, but we won a few fans, shared a few laughs, and started a few pants-fires.

SanDisk Battle of the Bloggers [SanDisk.com]

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